A sunny First Friday is the best First Friday — snow cones, block parties, dancing in the streets.
You can see everything from zombies to ballerinas on these Kansas City streets. And this could be one of our last jacket-less art walks of the year, our last chance to comfortably linger throughout the Crossroads and take it all in before the wind chill blows in a frigid vibe.
Hot or cold, First Friday supplies a never-ending offering of new things. One month you might catch Grupo
Axe Capoeira doing their Brazilian dance combining martial arts and rhythm; another month you could discover a culinary treat, like the pork belly beignets with maple syrup that will be unveiled this week at Wilma’s Real Good Food at The Star’s Food Truck Friday. And of course there are the ever-changing gallery shows.
But then there are the First Friday mainstays, the things we return to every single time because we know they’re going to treat us right. Like Peggy Noland’s boutique, 124 W. 18th St., where something is always seemingly exploding from the walls. You could see stuffed animals, you could see clouds, you could see anything. I love it.
In fact, you can’t go wrong on that beautifully boisterous block of West 18th Street between Baltimore and Wyandotte, where you could literally stand all night and watch parties unfold all around you. That’s how I like to do it. How about you?
Here’s how a few First Friday connoisseurs spend their artsy monthly:
, owner of Two Tone Press, gets there early and makes a night of it. She starts with happy hour (3 to 7 p.m.) at Lulu’s Thai Noodle Shop, 2030 Central St., where she gets the pan-fried pork dumplings ($3.50). She’s a fan of dumplings in general but calls the Lulu’s creations “little bursts of flavors in your mouth.”
Once she’s full, her mission is simple: “leisurely wandering around.” But she makes it a point to stop by the always wide-ranging Leedy-Voulkos Arts Center, 2012 Baltimore Ave. This month, Stretch is in the main gallery with his intricate glass, wood and steel sculptures that make up “Mixed Thoughts and Daydreams.”
performs with his crew, Soul Providers, at the Soul Providers Block Party (in front of Birdies, 116 W. 18th St.) every First Friday. But before he rocks the crowd he always orders pancakes and fried potatoes at YJs, a couple of doors down. Why YJs? Because you know it’s fresh, Les says.
He’s a people watcher and a fan of the rotation of break dancers who pop, lock, bend and twist to the beats. You can often find an audience gathered in a circle on West 18th Street. In the middle, the street becomes a dance floor and b-boys from all over the city get down. Even kids and random art lovers join in. Beyond that, Les likes to check out other musicians. A recent favorite: Kansas City hip-hop group Yawn Johnson.
Leonard “Leonightus” Gayden
, b-boy and DJ, break dances every First Friday around 18th and Baltimore, but he makes time to hit the galleries, too. He doesn’t miss a chance to stop by Kultured Chameleon Street Art Gallery (1739 Oak St.), where you can find custom painted vinyl toys, graffiti artists painting live, DJs and impromptu parties outside in the back. Friday, Gabriel Lacktman of the $tatus Faction presents a dark comedic collection of paintings, video and sculptures created just for Kansas City.
is a First Friday fangirl and aspiring artist. She’s been going to the monthly art walk with her mom since she was a little kid. Now at 16, she has her own favorites: pedicab rides and the “pretty rad” Todd Weiner Gallery, 115 W. 18th St. Did you see Steve Pistone’s Pink Elephants sculpture in July? I think rad is definitely the word. This month Lei Yan brings “Who Am I, Who Is She” to the block.
Pastor Scott Chrostek
of Church of the Resurrection Downtown hosts artists at the church every First Friday. But when he gets out and about, he likes to hang out with artist Beth Nybeck and look at her inspired metal sculptures at Studio B, 2016 Main St. He grabs a Buckaroo (a bacon cheeseburger with barbecue sauce) with tots at the Brick, 1727 McGee, and then he strolls down the block to Christopher Elbow, 1819 McGee. The choices are overwhelming at the chocolate boutique, but Pastor Scott suggests the raspberry chocolates and the turtles.
Phil “Sike Style” Shafer
, artist and co-curator at Kultured Chameleon, says the Mod Gallery (1809 McGee) chef tastings are a must. For the past year, Rick Mullins and Mickey Priolo have held down “The Mod Kitchen,” where you could get stuff like peanut butter cotton candy or chitterlings on a cracker. There’s a donation cup, but it’s generally free to taste. The duo recently joined the Bluestem team, so this month Chadd Williams of City Bitty Farm (and executive chef at Avila University) will take over.
Another cool stop: Old Souls Tattoo Parlour (2006 Main St.), where Phil says “they are committed to putting up cool artwork.” Recent shows include J.F. Hulston and Luke Rocha.
likes to catch live music and new openings when she can. Her latest must-see is an old fave in a new location: Bandwagon Merch shop, 408 E. 19th St. The merchandising firm is known for screen printing, and at the grand opening of their new shop and 10-year anniversary last First Friday, the shop had printed art, a whole hog roast by the Local Pig and beer from Boulevard Brewing Co. This month, the shop will take part in the C4 Fest, the First Annual Ryan Beye Foundation Block Party, featuring food, drinks, music and the unveiling of four murals by Eeks Art, Deuce Sharbonda, David Gant and Alexander Austin. It’s on Locust, between 18th and 19th streets.
, owner of Beer Paws, often sets up her dog rescue efforts around 20th and Baltimore with a Labradoodle and cockapoo by her side. But when she isn’t on duty she likes another dog: the Bulldog (1715 Main St.), where happy hour includes two-for-one drinks from 5 to 8 p.m. And then she likes to walk all over the Crossroads. “I just find the general mix of people from all over the metro fascinating. Suburbanites to hipsters and tourists and everyone in between.”
She looks forward to seeing the MoonDrop Circus with its sky-high aerialist and their lovely ribbons, at Beco Gallery, 1922 Baltimore Ave. It’s not showing this month. You’ll have to catch it in October.